Two whistleblowers – Protect has supported – have told how they have been bullied by energy regulator Ofgem, and prevented from speaking out over serious concerns.
The two men, who do not know each other, had concerns over the smart meter roll out and a green energy scheme. They both accuse Ofgem of using an obscure clause in the Utilities Act to try to prevent them revealing details of their concerns at their employment tribunals. The law carries the threat of up to two years in jail.
One of the whistleblowers, who wishes to remain anonymous said he was “continually threatened … for trying to tell the truth. For doing my job and uncovering an issue, Ofgem made my life hell.”
He said the regulator had attempted to “scare me witless with threats of imprisonment” and he felt “utterly ashamed” of Ofgem’s behaviour.
The other whistleblower, Grey Pytel, an economist with oversight of the rollout of the £10.9bn smart meter programme, (due to be completed in 2020), said
Instead of welcoming their input and investigating their concerns, the men allege they were bullied, treated unfairly and sidelined to such an extent they took their cases to an employment tribunal.
Protect along with MPs believe Ofgem is abusing its position and exploiting a law that was intended to protect UK national security – not a regulator from potential embarrassment.
The Labour MP Peter Kyle said: “Whistleblowers save lives and protect our economy from harm; they should be protected by law, not have it used against them.”
Protect Chief Executive, Francesca West, said: “The whole of the UK energy market – that’s more than 600,000 workers – are currently being held to ransom over Section 105 of the Utilities Act, and threatened with a prison sentence if they speak up over wrongdoing. It is utterly shameful. Our society needs whistleblowers to speak up, to stop harm. But we also need organisations to be honest, open and operate legally.”
* Greg Pytel’s employment tribunal continues in October. He has set up a crowdjustice fundraiser page.
Read media coverage The Guardian report, Ofgem exploited national security law to silence us, whistleblowers claim